Monday, 30 June 2008
The Post-Birthday World
Many people have compared this novel with the film Sliding Doors, where two possible futures are played out. However Sliding Doors is all about chance: whether the heroine catches her train just in time and gets home and catches her partner cheating; or whether the doors of the train close just before she reaches them, and she doesn't catch him out. The Post-Birthday World is much less about chance, and more about choice.
It is the story, or stories, of Irina, a book illustrator in a happy but mundane relationship, who is tempted to begin an affair with another man.
Irina and her partner Lawrence have an annual tradition to have dinner with Irina's colleague, Jude, and her professional-snooker-player husband Ramsey Acton, on Ramsey's birthday. This year Jude and Ramsey have divorced, and Lawrence is away on business, but Lawrence urges Irina to keep the tradition, and make a fuss of Ramsey on his birthday. Dining alone with the enigmatic and mercurial Ramsey, Irina finds herself unexpectedly drawn to him, and is tempted to begin an affair.
At this point the story splits, with one Irina saying goodnight and going home, and looking forward to Lawrence's return; and the other Irina choosing to kiss Ramsey and see where it leads. These are the post-birthday worlds: one in which Irina continues her pleasant and orderly life with Lawrence, and one in which she embarks on a steamy affair with Ramsey which will turn her life upside down.
The wonderful thing about The Post-Birthday World is that the two stories really are parallel: Irina is the same person regardless of her choice, she has the same strengths and weaknesses; in the parallel storylines she has to deal with many of the same challenges. In both stories she struggles to assert herself with her partner and to find her own professional identity. And Lawrence and Ramsey, while being very different to each other, also have a good deal in common. In neither story does Irina have an easy time with her chosen mate, but in both she learns a great deal.
It's a brilliant book, vividly-written and full of humour and irony. And there's a very satisfying twist at the end.
You can buy it from Fishpond here.